Travel

11 Jun 2019, 11:23 AM

June 11, 2019

Secession was a new general style that emerged in various but not all places of Europe at the start of the 20th century, following the developments in transportation and telecommunications, mass production, and expansion of the new class of wealthy. The bourgeoisie, while imitating aristocracy in its propensity to decorum, set to break up with traditional styles and historic imitations, which brought not only to variations in how this style was expressed in different cities, but also in what it was called (Secession, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Glasgow School, etc.)

Related: Slovenia by the Book: Let’s See the City - Ljubljana: Architectural Walks & Tours - A great book, written by two architects, that acts as your guide to the city

Secession arrived in Ljubljana about a decade after it emerged in the Art Nouveau centres of Europe. Most of Secessionist buildings were completed in the first decade of the 20th century, the majority of which can be found between the old city centre and the railway station, that is along Miklošičeva Street and around Miklošič Park. This part of the city is also known as Secessionist Ljubljana.

For visitors to Ljubljana who would like to take some pictures of this short-lived but beautiful architectural style we have listed some of the most representative examples below.

  1. Dragon Bridge, 1901, architect: Jurij Zaninović

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  1. Public Baths (now City Playground), 1901, architectural studio Wilhelm Brückner & Co

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  1. Krisper House, 1901, architect: Maks Fabiani

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  1. Čuden House, 1902, architect: Ciril Metod Koch

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  1. Hribar House, 1903, architect: Max Fabiani

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  1. Dalmatinova 3 House, 1903, architect: Robert Smielowsky

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  1. Urbanc Department Store (now Emporium Gallery), 1903, architect: Friedrich Sigmundt

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  1. Hauptman House, 1904, architect: Ciril Metod Koch

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  1. Deghengi House, 1904, architect: Ciril Metod Koch

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  1. Municipal Savings Bank, 1904, architect Josip Vancaš

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  1. Grand Hotel Union, 1905, architect: Josip Vancaš

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  1. Regalli House, 1906, building company Faleschini & Schuppler

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  1. People’s Loan Bank, 1907, architect: Josip Vancaš

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  1. Catholic Printing House (now the Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana), 1908, architect: Alois Cantoni

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  1. German Theatre (now the Slovenian National Drama Theatre), 1911, architect: Alexander Graf

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  1. German House, 1914, Ernest Schäfer Architectural Bureau

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  1. Drofenig House, also Miklauc Department Store, 1914, architect: Karl Bruennler

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  1. Cooperative Bank, 1921, architect: Ivan Vurnik

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07 Jun 2019, 18:00 PM

While Ljubljana Old Town is charming, as each tourist season goes by there are fewer stores that sell things a resident might actually need, with more practical shops getting replaced by those selling souvenirs, ice creams, high fashion items and so on. Nice to look at, but not much use when you need a pair of jeans, camera, USB cable, screwdriver, baking tray, bicycle or bookshelves.

So where does Ljubljana really shop, work and play? For many folk just a short drive or bus ride (#27) away from the Old Town at BTC City, a vast complex of shopping malls, business centres and entertainment facilities. It’s a place that now sees over 21 million visitors a year, from all over Slovenia and even neighbouring countries (with Croatians in particular coming for brands that are hard to find at home).

In the future I’ll be taking a deeper look at the various things on offer at BTC City, for both residents and tourists, but in this story I’m going to focus on one element that surprised me on a recent visit: the food you can get there. If you haven’t been for a while, or if your trips tend to be punctuated by quick cups of coffee or (in my case) a visit to what I believe is the only Burger King in the country, then you might be surprised at the depth and range of BTC’s current food offering, and how it’s making a serious claim as a food destination in its own right.

A home for ethnic food in Ljubljana

There are now more than 70 food vendors at BTC City, and since 2017 they’ve been marketed together under the label Food Bluz. The venture, which also includes a book produced in collaboration with Dr. Janez Bogataj (free PDF here in Slovene and English), was the first project presented as part of Slovenia’s role as European Region of Gastronomy 2021. However, while a broad range of Slovenian food is available at many of the restaurants, one of the great draws of the BTC’s current food offer is the varied menus from further afield, with Thai, Indian, Chinese, Mexican and more to tempt hungry visitors.

Thus in addition to being a well-established hub for business, commerce and innovation - bitcoins are accepted, and the place is a test ground for electric and autonomous vehicles - BTC City is now a nexus of culinary exploration. On my visit, undertaken with a writer from Croatia and with the excuse of research, I managed to cram in four meals and more drinks in one long day, while gazing longingly at many others.

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Pasta from a master. Photo: Paul Bradbury

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What's bigger than a Rubirosa? Photo: Paul Bradbury

First up was a trip to diVino, a three-floor place next to Kritalna palača (Crystal Palace), with a mix of customers from the local offices and businesses – which include BMW and Microsoft – as well shoppers and those who, like myself on this particular day, are just out to see what’s newest BTC City. DiVino aims to marry the traditions of Goriška brda with those of the Mediterranean, while keeping up on culinary trends. The man at the centre of it all is Chef Matjaž Cotič. He’s worked in Milan, Nice, Paris, Chicago and Basel and picked up many awards and titles along the way, with the two most appropriate for his current position being Italian Culinary Masterchef and the World Vice-Champion in Preparing Pasta (awarded by Barilla). Guests are thus assured of top quality ingredients, handled with care, and on my visit I enjoyed some fantastic Istrian-style pasta with asparagus, along with some aged beef, cooked rare and seasoned only with salt, pepper and olive oil. This was accompanied by a few glasses of Mare Santo penina, each bottle of which spends some time 20-30m under the sea. The temperature at this depth, along with the actions of the currents, are said to be especially good for the wine, as is the infusion of minerals through the cork. All I can say, since I’m no sommelier, is that it tasted great, and no, it wasn’t salty.

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There's an extensive fresh food market at BTC City. Photo: Paul Bradbury

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Photo: Paul Bradbury

We then visited the impressive street food market. This is a permanent, open-air affair, a little like Ljubljana’s summertime Open Kitchen, with local and regional delights, as well as Thai and Indian food, and it’s worth browsing first to both see what’s on offer and work up an appetite. Sadly mine was still satisfied from diVino and I had to forgo a curry, but still got a bottle of Singha beer to enjoy the feeling of being somewhere else.

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What happens after Tito's gone? Photo: JL Flanner

It was hot day, though, and after a further walk around BTC City, including a visit to (look at) the Adrenaline Park and meet an urban beekeeper whose hives are just behind the bushes, my companion and I were again feeling thirsty and in need of shade, and so ventured to Škrnić LJ (in Tržnica jug). This is a Slovenian restaurant that specialises in in one-pot dishes that can be eaten with a spoon, essentially stews and soups. We originally planned to share just one bottle of beer, but when we saw the names of some of the craft brews on offer – Josip, Broz and Tito – we had to sample all three. The alcohol awoke my appetite, and I ordered a plate of fried liver, gravy with mashed potato that was simple and fantastic.

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Liver, onion, mashed potato. Photo: JL Flanner

Food for all tastes at BTC City

Next door to Škrnić LJ is the Hiša Refoška, or House of Refošk, with Refošk being a red wine well-suited to hearty meat dishes. True, I’d finished the liver, but with the beer to encourage me I sampled a glass or two of wine here, made some notes, then moved on, determined not to be distracted by any more food and drink until I’ll I’d at least made an effort to see some of the 100s of stores that BTC City has.

Luckily, just a few steps further into the Tržnica jug I found an unexpected branch of Svilna Pot (“Silk Road”). This is an Asian food store that also operates on Trubarjeva cesta, and is run by the people behind the same street's Osho (selling Thai and Vietnamese food), as well as Bistro SUWON, one of the few, if not only, Korean restaurants in the capital. I stocked up on black label Shin Ramyun spicy ramen, Thai red curry mix, bags of sushi ginger, and some Indian powders and pastes.

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Pad Thai and porter. Photo: Kratochwill

The two of us then wandered around in a daze, overwhelmed by the choice of shopping on offer, with my companion curious about my Asian purchases. By chance we came across Kratochwill in exactly the right frame of mind – a little drunk, a little curious, and wanting to sit down. This is perhaps the largest restaurant in Ljubljana, and has the feel of a beer hall, although that could have been due to the beer and wine inside me.

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Buy enough beer and they'll show you the brewery. I assume that's what happened. Photo: JL Flanner

It’s promoted as “a brewery, pub, inn and (con)fusion restaurant”, and meets all the related criteria. The place, owned by the brothers Marko and Mile Kratochwill, has its own onsite brewery and very extensive and varied menu. We’re talking Slovenian classics alongside burgers, steaks, pastas, salads, seafood and pizzas, with the (con)fusion part of the billing being met by a list of Asian dishes that leans to Thai and Indian. A place with a seat and something for everyone, we enjoyed bottles of pilsner and porter to go with a plate of pad thai, plus – the photos prove, but I can’t remember – a number of other items.

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I have no memory of taking this picture. Photo: JL Flanner

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Or this one: Photo: JL Flanner

At around this point we decided we needed to avoid anywhere else that had its own brewery, or presented the opportunity for many more hours of research, and so headed back to where we started, Kristalna palača. While we began our culinary adventures in diVino, at the base of the tower, it was now time to head to the top of the tallest building in the country, although with just 20 floors and 89 metres you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

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The tallest building in Slovenia. Photo: JL Flanner

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On a clear day you can see forever. Photo: JL Flanner

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Small cakes to end a day of culinary adventure at BTC City. Photo: JL Flanner

While there are stairs, and an annual race up them (Tek a Kristalno palačo), we decided to take the elevator to Crystal Café and enjoy the view with a steady heartbeat. We were lucky with the weather, as it was clear and we could see the Castle and other city landmarks, as well as the mountains and just everything all around into the distance. We got coffee, shared a plate of small cakes and went over our notes for the day.

In short, even though we only managed to eat at four different places we got a good feel for the quality and variety, in terms of cuisine, price and dining style, currently available at BTC City, and with at least 70 other places to try on return visits, along with all the practical shopping and entertainment options on offer (a waterpark, cinemas, theatre and more), I’ll be going there whenever I have an excuse and an appetite.

06 Jun 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 6 June 2019 - Bathing water quality in 41 of 47 bathing waters included the European Commission's report for 2018, released on Thursday, were classified as being of excellent quality, with all 21 coastal bathing waters receiving this grade. Five waters were labelled good, one as sufficient and none as poor.

"All reported bathing waters are in line with the minimum quality standards of the directive on bathing waters and thus classified 'sufficient' or better," wrote the European Environment Agency, which examined 374 samples from 21 coastal and 26 inland locations.

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The tested sites

With the exception of 2011 when one bathing site was classified as good, all coastal bathing waters in Slovenia have persistently been labelled as excellent since 2009.

The inland bathing waters have all also been receiving at least good or sufficient grades since 2010, with half persistently classified as excellent.

EU-wide, minimum quality requirements were met by 95.4% of the 21,831 bathing waters monitored last year, with 300 waters in Albania and Switzerland also included.

Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Romania were the only other countries besides Slovenia without a single poor quality case.

The full report on Slovenia can be read here, while an interactive map showing all the tested site, all over Europe, is here

 

05 Jun 2019, 14:27 PM

The website Ex-Yu Aviation, essential reading for anyone with an interest in reginal air transport, reports that Slovenia is continuing in its efforts to attract nonstop flights to the Gulf, with a focus on te United Arab Emirates. The efforts include moves by the Ministry for Economic Development and Technology, as well as the Slovenian Tourist Board, which is funding marketing activities to promote direct links to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Related: Slovenia to Subsidize Marketing Efforts to Encourage New Ljubljana Flights

The website notes that the UAE's Economy Minister, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, sees considerable potential for tourism between the two states, and that direct flights between Dubai and Ljubljana would open Slovenia to the more than eighty million passengers who pass through Dubai Airport each year.

Related: Ljubljana Airport Continues to Seek Direct Flights to the Middle East

At present the closest direct link is the deal that the Emirates has established with GoOpti, the Slovenian shuttle bus company, which enables Emirates customers to use the carrier’s website to book tickets from Ljubljana to Zagreb Airport.

All out stories on air travel are here

01 Jun 2019, 16:03 PM

STA, 1 June 2019 - June brings change to public transport as a universal integrated transport service kicks in on Saturday. A passenger, buying one pass, will be able to use all means of public transport available, notably bus, coach and railway services of all transport service providers.

For those commuting daily to Ljubljana from nearby towns, 35 to 40 new fast bus or coach services will be introduced, which means they will have only one stop in-between.

Monthly and annual passes will be available as of today, with the former costing the equivalent of 32 single passes and the latter the equivalent of eight monthly passes.

This is in line with the government's decision in April, when a decree on the new integrated system of public transport for passengers was adopted.

New single, daily and weekly passes will be introduced in August, to be followed up in 2020 with an integrated monthly pass at the price of only 26 single passes.

Prices depend on the length of the journey; the lowest one was set for a distance of up to 5 kilometres (EUR 1.3) and the highest for over 150 kilometres (EUR 13).

Transport providers taking part in the new scheme will have an option of offering up to a 30% discount for monthly and annual passes.

The government decreed a 20% discount as the lowest possible for annual passes, as its goal is to have more than 80% of all passengers opt for annual or monthly passes.

The set prices are generally the prices of coach services, although transport officials have expected lower prices to encourage the use of public transport.

Although rail and bus fares should cost the same under the decree, business daily Finance recently reported rail operator Slovenske Železnice (SŽ) did not plan a price rise.

Commenting on the new system for Finance, Robert Sever of the GZS's transport section said last month: "We don't expect a revolution, but the fast lines will attract somewhat more passengers. However, passengers from Postojna will still get stuck in traffic jams on the motorway just like those in cars."

The expansion of the integrated passenger transport service comes after secondary school and university students started testing it in the 2016/17 academic year.

Finance has reported some EUR 120 million is available for public transport services a year, of which SŽ and 25 coach companies as the providers of the public service of integrated passenger transport received almost EUR 44 million for subsidised student passes in 2018.

31 May 2019, 16:27 PM

STA, 31 May - A search party is looking for a 23-year-old British citizen who has gone missing in the treacherous, narrow gorge of Koritnica River in the mountains of northeastern Slovenia on Thursday. A day earlier, a compatriot of his narrowly escaped death in a kayaking accident on the Soča.

According to the Nova Gorica police, the man, accompanied by another Brit, dropped his cell phone into the gorge while visiting Kluže fort, an ancient military check point positioned high above the Koritnica.

After realising that he would not be able to reach the bottom of the gorge from the fort, he and the other Brit rode some half a kilometre onward in the direction of the village of Log pod Mangartom.

While his companion waited in their van, the man went to look for his phone, the police said, adding that the terrain there was steep and dangerous, while the Kortinica water level was high due to the rain that persisted in the past weeks.

A search and rescue mission involving the police and the Mountain Rescue Service was launched immediately after the man was reported missing. His friends also joined the effort.

This happened only a day after a British kayaker almost drowned in the Soča river, some 10 kilometres south of the Kluže fort. She was a part of a group of kayakers who went into the swelling river without a guide, the police said in a separate press release on Wednesday.

She was soon turned upside-down by a strong current. She managed to free herself from under the kayak, only to get stuck behind a tree trunk. Members of the group tried to help her unsuccessfully and she was swept away once again.

Fortunately, the young woman managed to get herself out of the water further downstream.

Related: 10 ways to enjoy the River Soča

31 May 2019, 14:39 PM

In the village of Lokev, you can step back to a time and see how people shopped from the 1870s to the 1950s. Fabiani’s Museum Shop is unique in Slovenia, the only fully-preserved and equipped mixed-good store from the era. The museum was opened in 2007, and is in the same space as a store that was opened in 1869 by Jacob Fabiani.

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Step inside and you’ll be greeted by a sales assistant from the 1930s who will guide you through the store and answer any questions that you have about the more 7,000 items on display. These include a varied range, such as candy, seeds, shoe creams, baking powder, vinegar, cosmetics, petroleum, stationary, sewing supplies, tobacco products, spices, washing powders, soaps, various types of coffee, paints, enamelled and galvanized containers and many more, all the things you'd expect in a mixed goods store serving a community in the days before supermarkets or department stores.

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In addition to the goods that were once sold at Fabiani's there also a collection of old advertising items in the museum, with posters, statuettes, metal and cardboard billboards, as well as many other advertising products from the years covered.

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Of interest to anyone who has ever been in a shop or is curious about the past, and especially Slovenian history, a trip to Fabiani's Museum Shop in Lokev can also be combined with two other museums, as the village also has the Tabor Military Museum and the oldest prosciutto factory in the Slovene Karst, Pršutarna Lokev. There’s also the nearby Vilenca cave, and the famous white Lipica horses.

Fabianova muzejska trgovina, Lokev 118, 6219 Lokev. Website

The museum is open on Saturdays from April to November, and group trips are also possible during the week by prior arrangement. However, the owners may not always be there on Saturday, so if planning a special trip it’s best to call or email Miro first to see if the place will be open 00 386 41 976 385, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Related: Verba - Yugostalgia, tours and 28 languages in Ljubljana

31 May 2019, 12:37 PM

Life in downtown Ljubljana arranges itself around the river and its bridges, with the Ljubljanica, its regulation and the varied and various architectural interventions that cross it, giving the area much of its charm. But have you ever actually been on the water?

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Source: Barka

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Source: Barka

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Source: Barka

I have to confess, even though I’ve lived right by the river for some years, and am supposed to engage with my environment, I’d dismissed the boats going up and down in view of my apartment as a tourist trap, little more than floating bars with a captive audience. What could they offer me beyond feeling like an idiot as people watched from the embankments?

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Food can be arranged for private parties, and there's a bar onboard. Source: Barka

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Photo: JL Flanner

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Photo: JL Flanner

 But the other day I finally overcome at least one of my foolish and limiting prejudices, and took a ride on the Barka, which bills itself as the first and only wooden boat on the Ljubljanica, and one that was hand-built in Slovenia. A handsome vessel, as well as the usual boat trips and guided city tours, it can also be hired for romantic rides, closed groups, weddings or other occasions, with the option of full catering and the support of partner restaurants. It’s a nice boat, and – and the photos show here – one the complements the city itself.

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The Ljubljana many don't see. Photo: JL Flanner

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Photo: JL Flanner

The standard trip, as shown in the video at the end of this story, lasts 45 minutes and leaves from under the market side of Butchers Bridge (the one with the lovers’ locks). From there you head upriver, past Špica, and into the relative wilds inhabited by the canoe and sailing clubs, with idyllic looking homes that make you realise, once again, what a ridiculously nice city this is to live in. If you’re lucky you may even see some nutrija, a large water rodent that also makes its home here.

Related: In town this week? Check out what's on in Ljubljana here

Turning at Livada, the boat then heads back to the centre town, where you’ll get a good of the Castle, as well as the various bridges that connect the two parts of the Old Town. The trip then ends a little after Dragon Bridge, as it must, due to the sluice gate a hundred metres or so beyond this (a work by the architect Jože Plečnik, the man behind Špica embankment, the Triple Bridge, and Market Arcades, all seen on this trip).

In short, a boat ride along the river is highly recommended, and – to my surprise – perhaps even more so for residents than tourists, although the latter will still find much to enjoy from being on the relatively clean water, enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine, looking up at the people on the riverbanks and wondering if they know what they’re missing. You can learn more about Barka’s trips here, or just look out for the nice wooden boat.

27 May 2019, 10:30 AM

My workdays are hectic enough that if I go on an active vacation I’m likely come home as worn out and stressed as when I left. So perhaps it’s my work life (or age), but I found the peace and quiet of the tiny Big Berry “resort” – seven small riverside homes in Bela krajina (aka White Carnolia, and the k in krajina should be lowercase) – exactly what I needed, even if I wasn’t able to express those needs until they’d been met.

Started in 2016 as glamping destination for travellers, site for teambuilding exercises, and showcase for Hosekra’s prefabricated homes, the place operates under the slogan “the luxury of freedom”, and for me that meant freedom from demands on my time and attention. Yes, the resort has WiFi, but because of the metal structure of the homes the signal needs to be boosted in each unit, which means you can have the signal turned off and you’re free to stay offline when inside. So I just checked my emails at the start and end of each day in the main building, and even without me the world kept turning.

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One of the homes. Photo: Big Berry

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There’s a field between you and the nearby village which has cows grazing in it, and if you’re lucky they’ll wander over and start mooing in the morning, a nice alarm clock that you’re free to ignore. Photo: JL Flanner

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Clean and green. Photo: JL Flanner

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Croatia, and a small "beach" and blue slide, on the other side of the river. Photo: JL Flanner

Sited right by the River Kolpa, which divides Slovenia from Croatia, the resort sits between the small villages of Primostek (Slovenia) and Jurovo (Croatia), giving you the option of simply walking, cycling or swimming to another country – with no border controls at the time of writing. Indeed, several of the staff are Croatian and cross the border twice a day, while others include individuals from Portugal and Brazil, the latter part of the company’s internationally minded internship programme.

But what can you do here, other than turn off, tune out, and relax? It’s not that there’s nothing to do – there is, and we’ll get to that – it’s just there’s nothing you have to do, no must-see sights or “10 essential experiences”. The property is big enough that you can wander around, sit on the grass, read, draw, do yoga, enjoy the river and so on, with the Kolpa enabling swimming, canoeing, or supping (even fishing, with a licence). If you want to get further away, but still avoid driving, there are bikes you can use to explore the area. In season there are also activities offered for guests, such as wine tastings and other things from local partners.

Only breakfast is provided, with all the food ordered from outside. You choose from a menu the day before and the next morning a wooden box is sitting on your porch full of items from local producers. Bread, cheese, salami, milk, yogurt, fruit, jam, honey and so on, with coffee and tea supplies in the kitchen.

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Here you might notice a little too much packaging, but that’s a health and safety issue, and one the management would like to find a way around. Photo: JL Flanner

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Inside one of the homes. Photo: Big Berry

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Each home has a jacuzzi. Photo: Big Berry

After breakfast you’ll have to make your own arrangements for lunch and dinner. If you want to fully disconnect you could simply stop off at a store or market on the way to the resort and stock up the large fridge in your new home, and I certainly recommend bringing along some snacks, as well as buying some wine from a local cellar. But the area is so beautiful, the green, rolling hills so tempting, that a trip out for a meal is no bad thing. Especially since the team at Big Berry know the place well, and will be able to recommend something to enjoy (a knowledge base that extends from food and wine to all the other things the area has to offer).

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Andreja Drakulič Veselič with some glasses of white wine, sparkling mineral water and juice, called a Mussolini. I asked around and it’s a name for a spritzer that seem to have been especially popular in this area in the post-war years, but one that I’ve never head of elsewhere in Slovenia.

The group I was with, which included a number of travel journalists from Slovenia and Croatia, went to Gostišče Veselič and tried a varied menu that came with – as all meals in Bela krajina must – pogača, a flat round bread topped with salt and cumin and scored with lines, making it easy to tear off in chunks. This went well with a fresh salad, clear beef and noodle soup, a creamy garlic soup, a plate of meat, štrukelji, fried cheese potatoes and other hearty fare, followed by a dessert of fried dough (think donut pieces), caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. We were then offered a small dish of something unusual – garlic and pumpkin oil ice cream. It’s not something I’d order a bucket of, but definitely worth trying and sharing, with a “wow” factor that I kept returning to.

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Photo: JL Flanner

That was the only real meal I had off-site in my two days at Big Berry, with my appetite for the second day being taken up by a whole suckling pig and lamb that were roasted at the resort on spits, a speciality that can also be had, by prior appointment, at many local restaurants (as above, just ask the staff and they’ll have an answer). There’s also a barbecue area if you bring your own meat and vegetables.

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The onsite BBQ area. Photo: Big Berry

 I had two memorable cellar visits and tastings. The first was to Vinska Klet Prus (Prus Wine Cellar), in Metlika, an event that my fellow travellers later told me stretched on for at least 15 of the vineyard’s 45 wines. All I know for sure is we didn’t get back to Big Berry until midnight, with my notes becoming increasingly enthusiastic, erratic and illegible as the evening wore on.

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Mr Prus and some of his work. Photo: vinaprus.si

We were guided through the bottles by Jožef Prus, a 5th generation winemaker whose collection of medals, certificates and photographs with “wine queens” attests to the quality of his production. A man who loves his work, and his wine, Prus was able to bring each glass alive as we swirled, sniffed, sipped and savoured all the standard varieties as well as some novelties, like orange wine – a white that gets its colour from maceration – and Beli Trio, a mix Muscat, Traminac and Sauvignon that I’ll be looking for in stores. To that end, if you see a Prus bottle on the shelves called Svetovno Vino (World Wine) then don’t be put off by the name. It’s a well-made Cabernet Sauvignon that, due to the strict and arcane rules that govern the wine world, can’t be sold under that name, even though the vineyard has been producing it for decades. But Mr Prus follows his heart, and is a wine-maker whose bottles are worth seeking out.

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Photo: Semiška Penina

The other cellar visit was a mid-morning trip the next day to Semiška Penina. Penina, aka sparkling wine – champagne without the protected designation of origin (“PDO”) – is my favourite, albeit because it’s the one closest to beer. This was thus a magical trip, with a short tour of the cellar before the main order of business, tasting some of the company’s nine varieties. True, a penina tasting won’t take you on the same tour of colour and flavour that you’ll get at a place serving red, white, rosé, orange and ice wines, but will delight anyone who likes bubbles (unless, and I travelled with one such a person, you can distinguish between big and small bubbles and love the latter, while disliking the former). I had a great time.

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Osnovna Šola Bistra Buča is in a charming building that seems typical of the area. Photo: JL Flanner

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The teacher is always right in 1957. Photo: Paul Bradbury

Because I was travelling with Slovenians and Croatians we also made a stop at Osnovna Šola Bistra Buča, a charming building with a classroom from the 1950s and a teacher to match. Played out via the character of a strict but comical pedagogue, visitors will experience an entertaining lesson based on the region, it’s history and customs, and even if I didn’t understand every word the laughter of the others told me all I needed to know. So don’t plan a trip here if you can’t speak Slovene, but if you can then put it on your list of fun but not essential things to do in the area (you did, after all, come here to do nothing).

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After a few glasses of karapampoli you'll be ready for your Bela krajina passport: Photo: Paul Bradbury

We also stopped for a snack at Gostilna Badovinac, a restaurant that’s been in the same family since 1896 and kept enough customers happy that the owners have long since been able to follow their passions and not worry about chasing the market. In addition to presenting local food in its purest form, one such passion is karapampoli, a schnapps made with over 30 ingredients that the current reigning Badovinac will be happy to list for a few seconds before waving his hands with an “and so on…” Delicious and no doubt good for almost anything, it’s also very strong, so don’t have one if you’re driving – Slovenia has strict laws and the roads are narrow and windy. Do, however, consider picking up a bottle to enjoy back at Big Berry or elsewhere, as it’s only sold here.

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"Papers, please". Photo: Paul Bradbury

Another passion the family pursues is more quixotic, but also explains some of the charm of Bela Krajina, and some of what makes it distinct, as all regions are, from the others. The restaurant serves as the check point for entry into the Free Territory of Bela Krajina, or Svobodna Belokranjsko Ozemlje. This is for two reasons. One is the fact that in the Second World War the region was a centre of anti-fascist resistance, home to the Yugoslav Partisans and the site where many Allied prisoners escaped to (as recounted here). Another is part of a broader tourist promotional effort, whereby visitors can purchase a passport (€6) for Bela Krajina that gives discounts to many businesses and attractions, and also collect stamps as they travel the region. The details entered in the document include your name, official ID number, nationality, waist size (guessed) and nose colour.

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A sign showing the Gostilna's status as a checkpoint for entry to the free territory of Bela krajina. Photo: JL Flanner

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Those interested in World War Two history will many stories in the region. Photo: JL Flanner

And that – some eating and drinking, a short detour to see a US bomber from WW2, along with some sitting around on the porch and in the jacuzzi with a book – was all I did during my two days at Big Berry, taking full advantage of the location and facilities to disconnect as much as possible from my regular concerns and reconnect with food, drink, myself and my companions. I left feeling refreshed, but also ready to come back, do even less and not take any notes. You can learn more about Big Berry at the website, here, while the general site for Belja krajina is here.

25 May 2019, 08:18 AM

STA, 21 May 2019 - The 13th Wild Flower Festival, held in Bohinj between 24 May and 9 June, aims to answer some of the key questions in tourism and society. It is an excellent example of how natural heritage can be preserved and included into tourism with the collaboration of the local community.

The festival that will last a fortnight will offer visitors a bouquet of events, organised into three main sections, all aimed at showcasing the botanical riches of Bohinj.

Flowers in Art will host concerts and exhibitions, as well as workshops during which visitors will be able to experience traditional customs such as village singing; Flowers in Everyday Life will show how alpine flowers can be used in the kitchen, to make handicrafts etc. and Flowers in Science will host a series of seminars and conferences on the theme of sustainable development.

These numerous events aim to promote the recognition and importance of preserving national heritage, develop out-of-season tourism, and show how ecotourism and alpine farming can ensure long-term economic prosperity for the region.

"We want to encourage youths to take up farming in a way that does not harm the environment; something the people of Bohinj have known how to do for the past 3,000 years," Klemen Langus, the director of Bohinj Tourism, said at Tuesday's press conference,

Agriculture in Bohinj had suffered a downturn in recent years, however, small farms are making a comeback, according to Bohinj mayor Jože Sodja.

Farmers also play a key role in the success of the Wild Flower Festival. They make sure some meadows are mown later and not fertilized with chemical fertilizers, which enables the growth of wild-flowers, Bohinj's trademark. Its amazing biodiversity is famous among experts the world over as an area rich with over 1,000 plant species.

Aside from farmers, locals, associations and centres that support sustainable living collaborate with the festival. The Janez Mencinger Primary School has been a partner of the festival since the very beginning. Its aim is to teach future generations about the importance of environmental preservation; this year, their main themes will be mountain pastoralism and cheese-making.

Visitors to the festival can see the sights during one of the many guided tours. Organizers have received more than 100 bookings, mostly from visitors from England and Germany.

You can learn more about the festival here

20 May 2019, 18:26 PM

STA, 20 May 2019 - The peak cruise ship season has started at the Slovenian seaside, with some 2,500 cruise passengers sailing into the Koper harbour last Saturday and almost 5,000 being expected this week.

 

MS Mein Schiff 6, which is part of the TUI Cruises' fleet and carries more than 1,000 crew members in addition to the passengers, arrived in Slovenia's only sea port for the first time on Saturday.

Being almost 300 metres long and over 40 metres wide, Mein Schiff 6 is one of the biggest ships the harbour has ever welcomed, said the Koper municipality.

To mark the occasion, the municipality's representatives as well as representatives of the port operator Luka Koper met with the ship's captain.

The ship is one of the fleet's new vessels, being launched in January 2017, and it embarked on its maiden voyage in June 2017.

It offers mid-priced cruises, accessible to a wider range of customers, with a few suites designed for more high-end passengers.

Koper expects to welcome three cruise ships this week, including MSC Musica on Tuesday, Marella Discovery on Wednesday and Viking Star on Friday.

MSC Musica, carrying some 2,000 passengers, will sail from Venice and later continue its journey to Zadar in Croatia.

Marella Discovery visited Koper already at the beginning of May and will make a stop in the Slovenian harbour again during its voyage to Venice, carrying some 1,800 passengers.

Viking Star, on the other hand, is a luxury cruise ship, having space for almost 1,000 passengers.

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